Upgraded Chevy Trax, Camaro, trucks at Chicago show

Henry Payne
The Detroit News

Continuing a product resurgence that saw it lead the industry in 2015 retail sales gains, Chevrolet is updating five vehicles that have been key to Chevrolet’s buzz. All will take a bow at the Chicago Auto Show.

The Trax’s dimensions and engine are unchanged, but its “dual port” fascia adopts family features from the Malibu.

The Chevy Trax, one of the best-selling subcompact crossovers in the industry’s hottest new segment, gets an exterior and interior makeover for the 2017 model year. The Chevy Camaro, critically acclaimed as the best-handling pony car ever, will burnish its reputation with a 1LE performance package. And the Chevy Colorado, the envy of 2015 pickup sales, will add a special Midnight Edition to its wardrobe along with pickup stablemates Silverado and Silverado Heavy Duty.

The Trax was one of the first entries into the small ute segment in 2014, and quickly shot to the top tier in sales. It beat entries from other automakers last year including the Jeep Renegade, Honda HR-V and Fiat 500X.

Only the mid-luxury Buick Encore — built on the same GM platform — sold more. Yet, just 13 months after it hit U.S. showrooms, the Trax gets a major style update including an all-new snout and more premium interior.

“Though new to the U.S. market just over a year ago, the Trax had been selling internationally since late 2012,” explains Cheryl Pilcher of Chevrolet marketing. “So the Trax is actually a mid-cycle refresh that will be found in over 60 countries. We have sold over 400,000 worldwide — 63,000 in the States last year.”

The Trax was designed in South Korea, where it’s built for export around the world, including the U.S. The Trax dimensions and engine — a 1.4-liter, 4-cylinder turbo — are unchanged, but its “dual port” fascia adopts family features pioneered by Chevy’s flagship 2016 Malibu sedan. Evolving from Chevy’s former split grille, the upper grille now connects both headlights. A larger hexagonal opening feeds more air to the engine. The face’s proportions are similar to Chevy’s Bolt electric vehicle introduced at the Detroit auto show in January.

Critically panned for an interior short on pizazz and long on plastic, Trax sports a second-generation do-over with an upscale instrument display and greater use of soft materials like vinyl in the base model and leatherette in premium trims. Sacrificed to style are clever storage cubbies in the dashboard.

When it hits showrooms this fall, the new Trax will also boast Chevy’s industry-leading connectivity features like Apple Car Play, Android Auto and 4G LTE WiFi – as well as safety options like forward-collision warning, blind-spot assist and cross-traffic alert.

For 2017, Camaro introduces the 1LE performance package for its muscle-car star. For the first time it will be available for the V-6 model and the V-8-powered SS.

For 2017, Camaro introduces the 1LE performance package for its muscle-car star. For the first time it will be available for the V-6 model as well as the V-8-powered SS.

You’ll know it by the black satin-wrapped hood and manual-only transmission. The 1LE also gets black 20-inch wheels, splitter, spoiler and optional Recaro seats (standard on the SS 1LE). Under the skin are upgraded suspension, huge Brembo brakes and additional front outboard cooling for track runs.

“The 1LE is for the owner who drives to work during the week — and then to the track on weekends,” said Tom Peters, Camaro chief designer.

On the truck front, Chevy trucks set the pace in sales growth for 2015 — in part driven by special editions that sold in one-third the time of other trucks.

The Midnight Edition light-duty Silverado was a sellout. So the light-duty pickup is back in black for 2016 — and the Heavy Duty Silverado and midsize Colorado will go dark as well. Colorados accounted for 74 percent of the sales increase in the red-hot midsize pickup segment last year.

“The Silverado 1500 Midnight was by far the most popular (special edition) in 2015,” said Chevy Truck marketing manager Sander Piszar. “It only made sense to expand our special-edition offerings for 2016, including new Midnight editions.”

The Midnight Edition blacks out everything from wheels to tinted windows to the bowtie logo. The sinister look is married to Chevy’s Z71 package which stiffens off-road capabilities with features like a beefier suspension, locking rear differential and Hill Descent Control.

Henry Payne is auto critic for The Detroit News. Email him at hpayne@detroitnews.com. Follow him on Twitter @HenryEPayne.